Harrington woman, Genevieve Godwin sent in her memories of Anzac veteran, Clarrie Towers.
CORPORAL Clarence Bignell Towers, AIF, was among the youngest to land at Gallipoli.
He had had his 21st birthday on a troop convoy in the Red Sea on the day HMAS Sydney sank the German raider, Emden.
Clarrie was a sniper scout on Gallipoli.
He was wounded in the head by bursting shrapnel while on patrol and was rescued by New Zealanders, who put him on a hospital ship bound for Alexandria.
He recovered in time to take part in the evacuation.
Meanwhile, he had been reported killed.
"When I returned to the peninsula with some English troops and reported to my old unit they thought I was a ghost," Clarrie told the Manning River Times (MRT) in 1975.
As part of the 2nd Battalion Clarrie saw service in Egypt, Gallipoli and the Western Front.
In the "big push" (July 23, 1916) at Pozieres he suffered gunshot wounds in the right leg and arm and in the chest.
"Pozieres was a terrible place. We captured a German trench once and it was like walking on springs with dead bodies under our feet," he said.
Acting Sergeant Clarence Towers was mentioned in dispatches twice and holds the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
He was also belatedly awarded the Somme Medal from France and the War Veteran's Cross from the King of Belgium in 1976.
Despite the horror it was during his active service that Clarrie discovered he had a gift for writing verse.
His topics were mainly reflections on everyday life and have been published in several newspapers over the years.
With a dozen siblings Clarrie was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs Henry Towers of Coopernook.
His mother was one of 17 children.
On his return to Australia the Sydney Mail (August 1, 1917) reported that, "He has two brothers, a nephew and 52 cousins in khaki".
His brother Private Arthur Edward Towers was with the 13th Battalion and was returned to Australia on November 12, 1916.
When he enlisted on September 29, 1914 he gave his occupation as "bushman".
He was a sleeper cutter before the war.
"I was scrub cutting on the Comboyne when I first heard about the war", he recalled to the MRT, "I went to Sydney, spent the night at the People's Palace and the next day walked to Paddington to the Victoria Barracks. The recruiting sergeant asked me what I wanted to be in and I told him the Light Horse. He said, 'what experience have you had?' and I told him I owned a horse and had been with them all my life. He said, 'Not enough experience. You'll be in the infantry.'"
He recalled that the uniform was a disappointment, "Out in the bush I had fancied myself in blue trousers and a scarlet tunic and white helmet. The khaki was a bit of a comedown."
The Towers lived beside the school at Cattai (across the creek from where Stones Seafoods is now) and Henry would row across the Manning to work on the Shoesmith's farm on Mitchells Island.
While few of us would be able to do this today I note that the Shoesmith children rowed to and from school each day.
In 1968 Clarrie recalled to my aunt, Gwen Whatson, fond memories of eating figs with his mother beside the dairy on the farm.
Clarrie started school at Harrington and remembers being in a boxing match with Wally Muir in the old hall on Scotts Hill with the floor all covered in sand. (This hall was later moved to its current position on the corner of Pilot and Beach Streets and dedicated as a war memorial hall.)
A strong young man, Clarrie was called out to assist in the rescue of people from several shipwrecks including one at Old Bar.
In 1917 while he was recovering from his war wounds in England Clarrie fell in love with a volunteer helper, Mademoiselle Dora Polak from Brussels.
They were married by special licence at Southend and his bride returned with Clarrie to Australia.
There they would have received a War Pension but needed to work to sustain themselves.
At the age of 24 the only work Clarrie could find was selling cigarettes and matches in Martin Place.
At this time the bush poet, Henry Lawson, was wandering the streets of Sydney "putting his hat out" for donations.
It is interesting to ponder whether they may have met and swapped poems.
Clarrie's wife got a job as a children's nursemaid in a well-off household and, sadly for Clarrie, eloped with their father.
In 1920 the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated pension was introduced which would have improved Clarrie's financial situation.
Clarrie moved back to Harrington and lived in a tent on the camping reserve (now Big4) where he acted as caretaker.
There he found new love, with Dot Field, the cook at the Harrington pub.
They bought an old shop, which is still standing on the corner of Crowdy Road and Granter Street, and set up a dining room where holidaying families could arrange to have their meals.
My grandmother thought this was a great arrangement and, in the 1930s, took her family there regularly.
His strength returned and by WWII he had returned to timber cutting specifically tea tree "knees" for shipbuilding he could earn up to 30 pounds a week doing this.
Dot and Clarrie lived in unwedded bliss for 40 years, fishing, drinking at the pub, playing cards, writing poems and enjoying Dot's cooking.
My fondest recollection of "Uncle" Clarrie is him reciting "The Man from Snowy River" told like only one who had lived that life could tell it.
Until 1973 Clarrie would travel to Sydney to march in the Anzac Day Parade.
In later life he joined in the ceremonies at Taree.
Clarrie died in care on October 2, 1982, aged 87.
His plaque at the Coopernook General Cemetery reads: "His duty nobly done."